Category Archives: Holidays

That’s a Wrap {Birthday Season 2015}

PTS | That's a WrapIt’s finally done…birthday season 2015. Eight birthdays in three months (seven of those being in eight weeks) is exhausting.

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People often ask if we just combine birthdays since they are all so close. And we always say, “No!”

There are many perks to being in a large family. I love it and wouldn’t ever want to change it. However, there are hard things too. Out of necessity, a lot of things in our life have to happen as a group. But birthdays? Those are a day to celebrate an INDIVIDUAL and to make that person know how thankful we are they were born. We want to celebrate the joy they bring to our life and look to the future and pray expectantly for good things to come. We take each birthday to make the day all about that one child, showering them with love, yummy food, and a few gifts.

Our tradition has been to let the kids choose the meals for the day (it used to be dinner, which is what my parents did for us, but somehow over the years it has crept into choosing all the meals. And of course, they often pick the hardest or most time consuming!) We also let them give input on decorations. They each have the choice of a family activity or a party. Over the years, we have only had three parties (two of them this year!) We love doing things as a family and that is most often their choice.

This year was a great year of celebrating each of our children (and my birthday and Jason’s birthdays fall right in the middle of all that!)  As much as I love the fun and creativity that comes with birthday season, I am usually quite happy to see it go. Now I have until the end of January before I have to plan another birthday!

Here is birthday season 2015 in review!

Alaina

Katie

Bethany

Zachary

Levi

Caleb

 

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Let Dad Be Dad (again)

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About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post entitled Let Dad Be Dad. It was based on some of the best parenting advice I have ever received. I think this mindset has been key in our marriage and in our parenting. If I had tried to make Jason parent like me, I would have squashed his spirit and taken much of the joy out of parenting for both of us.

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I won’t rehash my thoughts; you can read them here. I do think, though, another dose of photographic proof might be in order.

The two older boys decided on a birthday party this year. Our children are allowed to choose between a family activity and a party. They usually choose to do something as a family, but this year the boys wanted to celebrate with a few friends. And really, they just wanted an excuse to play more football.

For the younger kids this year, I purchased piñatas. Never ones to miss a chance to get candy, the boys wanted one for their party. Since I gave Jason the reigns of the party beyond the food, the piñata and other activities were up to him.

When it was time for the piñata and the kids were all on the front porch, I took a few moments to rest in my room. I was quietly checking email when I hear this from the porch:

“Now, in Piñata ninja, you have two choices: two hits with the nunchucks or one flying kick.”

Um, “piñata ninja?” What is this man up to?

I snuck outside to hear the rest of the directions. I grabbed my camera to prove once again this man is crazy and that my kids are so incredibly blessed to have Jason as their dad.

Fifteen minutes of nunchucks, headbutts, flying kicks, and karate chops later, the coveted candy spilled and the boys joyfully descended like vultures.

Yes. Always. Let dad be dad.

And let dad run boy birthday parties.

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Eleven

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My sweet Caleb is eleven today.

I didn’t know I was having a boy. I suspected, but chose to be surprised. After a long labor, a sweet boy was handed to me and I thought, “What am I going to do with a boy?”

I continued to ask myself that question over the next few years. Girls I understood. But boys? I don’t get them at all. How can I be a mother to a boy?

Two years later, the Lord then blessed me with another boy and I have spent these eleven years learning what it means to be a mother to a boy (or three).

It means watching the warrior heart of God shine bright through rough play, sword fighting, and sports. It means lots of sweet cuddles from boys with big hearts. It means trusting that when my mothering instincts fail, God’s fathering instincts have been there all along.

I love my sweet Caleb. He was the squishiest, most kissable cheeks on the planet. I could kiss them all day.

I love his zest for life. He’s so much like me: what he loves, he loves deeply and completely (admittedly, bordering on far into the territory of obsession). His ages and stages have changed, but his passion remains.

I had so much fun going through photos, trying to choose which to show. I couldn’t narrow it down. Every single moment of his life has been filled with great joy and love.

I love you, sweet Caleb. You are such an awesome kid and I am so glad to get to be your mom. You have taught me so much and have inspired so many. Your tenacity and loyalty will take you far.

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Z-Man

Our sweet (and crazy) Zachary turned two on Monday. He has been such an amazing addition to our family and although he keeps us very busy, I couldn’t imagine our lives without him. He is adored by his siblings and they fight over him, his hugs, his kisses, and his crazy antics. He’s such a sweet guy, a total mix of his two brothers. I can’t wait to see who he becomes.

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Our Beppy Girl

 

Our sweet Beppy girl is FOUR! She has been waiting so long. The last eleven days (since Katie’s birthday) have been especially difficult. “Your birthday is next” meant “the very next day” in her little heart, and we had a lot of tears to wipe the morning after Katie’s birthday when we informed her that she still had ten more days to wait.

I love this girl. There is a love that is so deep, so fierce. Of course I love all of my kids, but this girl has a special place in my heart. First, she is the only of my children to make an appearance early (six days early, bless her heart!) That in and of itself awards her favorite child status. But more than that, we share a love language. We both speak and listen in words of affirmation.

I have never met a child like this girl. Ever since she was about ten months old and could sign, she has been saying please and thank you without being prompted. She hasn’t changed since. She is quick to offer affirming words at any and all occasions. Regularly she throws her arms around me and says, “I so very love you.” When dad brought her to see the toy kitchen we gave her this morning, she ran to him and said, “You’re the best dad ever!” This morning when I was making her cake, she said with all seriousness, “I’m so sorry.” “For what?” I asked. “For not being able to stay three forever.” (She knows I LOVE THREE).

Bethany Noelle is such a blessing to our family. I can’t wait to see what God does with her amazing personality. I know it’s going to be huge!

 

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Seven

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Our sweet Katie is seven. SEVEN.

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Most of the time, time passes and I wonder where it all went. It usually seems as if it goes so fast. But with Katie, I can’t say that. The beginning of her life marked the beginning of so much of mine that I find it hard to believe all that has happened in seven short years.

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When Katie was three weeks old, we found out that we were unexpectedly leaving our job in Florida. We had no idea where we were going to go. The next month was filled with a lot of anxiety as we wondered about life with four kids age five and under with no job, no house, no insurance, no ideas.  But God…I love that most of my stories have a “but God” phrase where His amazing power gets all the glory.

But God had plans for us, plans we knew nothing of, plans that would give us breath and life. This post is about Katie, though, so I won’t go into all that moving to Indonesia did for me, for our family, or about how the grief of missing it is so thick right now.

I can’t help think of Indonesia, though, when I think of our sweet Katie. At four months, we moved to the island of Java, and while there we have watched her grow into this sweet, crazy, selfie-obsessed freckle-faced girl. She keeps us laughing, she keeps us guessing, and she keeps us in awe of God’s creativity in creating her.

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Twelve Years

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I wanted to be a mama.

Really, it’s all I ever wanted.

I dreamed many dreams about holding my babies, about a little girl running around in braids, about pouring out love immeasurable.

During my freshman year of college, hitting the lowest possible low a human heart can hit, I sat at the sink of my dorm room making a choice: a choice to end the pain or to hold out hope for a family.

Hope won out and God’s grace and love quickly filled the many broken parts of me. I switched schools, waited while others planned their weddings, and prayed for the little girl in braids.

After three miscarriages, many tears, and learning what a sacrifice of praise was, God gave me a beautiful gift. Alaina, her name chosen while I was still in high school, was born in a hospital in Bangalore, India.

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And now, twelve years later, my mama heart still beats strong.  In a world that uses awful phrases like, “just a mom,” my heart is filled with songs of praise that God would allow me the privilege of watching and taking an active role in one of HIs creations growing into His eternal purpose for their life.

And what a privilege it has been to be a mama to this girl. There aren’t words enough to describe my sweet Alaina. Perfect, she is not. Perfect, I am not. That’s why we have the hope of eternity. One day we will fully be like our Creator. Until then, we stand amazed at the many facets of His personality we get to display here on earth.

She’s patient.
She’s eager to learn.
She’s dependable.
She loves the Lord.
She loves her siblings.
She is an amazing cook.
She’s beautiful.
She’s stylish.
She doesn’t complain.
She loves to travel.
She’s creative.
She’s intelligent.
She loves to read.
She loves to write.

She, like the rest of my children, are a blessing to me. But more than that, oh so much more than that, I pray that she will be a blessing to others. I pray that the ripple effects of a life lived in love and grace will extend to the farthest sea. I pray that Alaina will see and understand God’s great love for her and that He purposely chose her for this family, for this time, for this place. None of it was an accident. None of it is without purpose. He has great plans for this girl and I will continue to pray that she will willingly enter into this great love and purpose for her life. It’s gonna be a good one, of that I am sure.

And now, more for my enjoyment rather than yours, a very long photographic walk down memory lane. Twelve years. I am so thankful.

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A Merry Little Christmas

Although I wasn’t feeling well, it was very important to me that I be present for Christmas. I spent a lot of time praying that I would be well enough to be with the kids and have fun. I didn’t want this to be “the year mom ruined Christmas.” Even in my struggles, I am very careful with my words and attitudes toward the kids. They are precious to me and every time I speak to them, even in discipline or training, I want them to know deeply that they are loved and valued. So much is communicated through tone of voice! When mothers are fighting their own struggles, it’s easy to let the kids take the brunt of it. But their little hearts are just too precious for that. I promised myself that if I couldn’t be kind and gentle in my words, I excused myself and went to my room.

Thankfully, the Lord answered my prayers and although physically I wasn’t doing well, I was able to be mentally present enough to enjoy our Christmas traditions such as decorating cookies, making our spaghetti Christmas Eve dinner, making Thai Mango Sticky Rice for Christmas breakfast, and getting through a long day of opening and enjoying gifts. We had a wonderful turkey dinner in there too. I am thankful that I don’t think the kids will have any memories of me being sick this year. Instead, they will remember happy times as a family and with grandparents and what is probably the biggest Christmas they have ever (or will ever) have.

And just a note on the gifts. There were a lot this year. Part of it is simply having six kids. Part of it is that for the first time in many years, Jason and I exchanged gifts. We have spent the last three years in transition and therefore say  no to the kids (and ourselves) all the time. We don’t want to buy stuff that we can’t take with us. And while that is still true, we expect to be in one place for a bit longer this time and so this was the year we said yes. Our kids are the most grateful and loving kids and they have never complained when we didn’t have money to buy much or when we don’t purchase things through the year. Christmas and their birthdays are the only time we buy them things. It was fun to indulge them a bit this year. When they have grateful hearts, it is so fun to surprise them with abundance.  I wonder if this is how God feels too.

And now for the pictures.

CHRISTMAS EVE

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CHRISTMAS DAY

Launching the water bottle rocket

Launching the water bottle rocket

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Real live baby dolls

Real live baby dolls

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They are trying to wait patiently.

They are trying to wait patiently.

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These two were up earlier than everyone else.

These two were up earlier than everyone else.

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Someone isn't happy to have to wait to open gifts.

Someone isn’t happy to have to wait to open gifts.

Sticky Rice!

Sticky Rice!

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New airplanes

New airplanes

A taste of the chaos

A taste of the chaos

Grandpa helping Zach with his trains

Grandpa helping Zach with his trains

A Merry Little Christmas

Another Christmas done. It’s hard to believe that this is our 15th Christmas as a married couple and our 11th as a family. I love that we always have a special morning together, with just us, celebrating God’s gift to the world and our gifts to each other.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Zachary’s first Christmas (wearing the same PJ’s that all of the kids have worn for their first Christmas)
  • The magic of a two year old on Christmas morning (and watching her progressive wardrobe change)
  • Mama-made Christmas PJs for all the kids (wrinkled from a good night’s sleep)
  • Gratitude and excitement for gifts (we rarely buy anything for the kids through the year, making Christmas and birthdays truly special)
  • Another white Christmas (we buy 10 pounds of cotton batting each year so we can have a “White Christmas”)
  • Our traditional red and green Thai Sticky Rice with Mango
  • A special gift from Alaina: 15 years of Christmas memories typed and presented to me. I love that she knows me well enough to know how much that would mean to me.
  • A special gift from Caleb: A huge hand drawn picture of “DRAWWORLD.” I love to see his creativity. The details are amazing!
  • Two boys feeling grown up with their new iPod shuffles.
  • Two happy girls anticipating a “girl trip” to Kuala Lumpur at the end of January
  • Two happy boys anticipating a “boy trip” trip to Legoland in Malaysia at the beginning of January.
  • Being surrounded by these amazing people I get to call family.

 

 

This Was December

*In an effort to give an update on the last seven months, I am posting monthly reviews for June-December 2013. Feel free to catch the others here: JuneJulyAugust, September, October, and November.

 

What November lacked in photos, December more than makes up for it. I was feeling so much better — physically, yes, but also emotionally and mentally.  The pregnancy fog that plagued me for so long started to lift and I was starting to feel like myself again.  The things I normally enjoy (like taking photos) was fun again. Plus, with three Christmas celebrations, a 17 day trip, and lots of firsts (like sledding!) there was a lot to photograph!

The month started off strong. Since we were going to be leaving on a trip to Michigan later in the month, we wanted to be sure that we took time to celebrate Christmas as a family first.  So, we got right to work decorating, wrapping, and preparing for our December 8th family Christmas.

Days leading up to our family Christmas were filled with baking, preparing, school, and getting ready for our trip.

Alaina is so good about helping Katie with her school work!

A special dessert one night. Pinterest makes holiday baking so much more fun!

Our “Christmas” morning started off as usual: stockings, pictures in Christmas jammies (opened the night before), and breakfast together. Thai sticky rice (in red and green!) is always the request!

Then we moved on to gifts!

All the present opening wore us out (as evidenced by Miss Bethany pretending to nap with her new blankie and pillow pet), so we cleaned up and rested.  Then, I took the kids out for a bit so I could get some photos of them.  It had been a long time since I took them out specifically for photos. Caleb was sick and we were losing light fast, but we were still able to get a few good ones.

The next day, I made everyone get dressed again to try for a few family pictures.  It was a complete failure, but at least we got some laughs out of.  Not one picture that I love, but a lot that make me giggle! And yes, I am completely embarrassed to show the ones of me in the them.  I hate them all.  But hey, this is real life and this is sometimes what we get.  In case you are wondering, I set my camera on a tripod and I use a remote timer that I set to take a photo every three seconds.


I take that back…I love these two :) Daddy to the rescue to save a screaming baby.  She loves him so much!

Mixed in with packing and getting ready for our trip to Michigan, the next week was filled with some leisure.  Walks with the kids, baking, and just soaking in the beauty of God’s creation. Almost nothing brings me so close to the Lord than stopping in awe and wonder at His beautiful creation. His creativity — even in the smallest details — leaves me awestruck.

 

These cookies, Jason said, “Are like a bit of holiday delight in your mouth!”  I laughed so hard!

I made lots of yummy chai mix with fresh ground spices.  Mmmm…

On the 15th of December, we drove to Michigan to spend the holidays with family.  On the 17th (in addition to celebrating 13 years of marriage!), we celebrated Christmas with Jason’s parents and brother.  One of the first orders of business for the day was for Caleb to wow us with his magic show.  He had been practicing for a few weeks and he did a great job!


My favorite part of the day was getting to spend it with our sweet Lucy!  She isn’t able to live with us at the missionary home so she has been living with Jason’s parents.  I can’t wait to have her back with us again!

On the morning of the 21st, the kids got to experience for the first time what they were most excited about: SNOW! Michigan got a light dusting and long before the sun was up, our kids were out enjoying it!


Bethany woke up later and took her turn exploring the white stuff.

On December 23rd, we made the seven hour trek to Madison, Wisconsin, to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my side of the family.  It was a fun time to be all together and my younger sister and her husband were great (and gracious!) hosts. Christmas morning was a bit insane, but even Santa found some time to snooze.


On the way back to Michigan, we had the pleasure of spending a few hours with former coworkers from Indonesia. What a blessing it was to get together!


Once we got back to Michigan, the kids were thrilled to see a good amount of snow.  They LOVED playing and sledding on the piles dumped in Wisconsin and so they were thrilled for a few more chances to enjoy it before heading back to North Carolina. And I was thrilled with the local salvation army that helped us get all five kids outfitted for under $30! No use spending lots of money on things we probably won’t ever be able to use again!

The final event of our trip was something that we had been meaning to do all month and just hadn’t had the chance to do yet: make gingerbread houses.  It isn’t something we had ever done before, so when I saw these kits at Hobby Lobby on Black Friday, I thought they would be a great first-time experience for us.  The kids had so much fun (and made a huge mess of Jason’s parent’s kitchen!)

And one final photo of 2012…saying goodbye to grandma and grandpa (and Lucy :().  Looking forward to a GREAT 2013!

And that was December!

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